Books. It is easy to forget what a nifty example of information technology they are - portable, packed with information, flexible enough to let us read and reread their contents, and happily free from power surges. Whatever the warnings of the pessimists, the book looks likely to remain the staple of the English classroom. But it is interesting to note how ICT is supplementing rather than supplanting its role, for both students and teachers.
Judging from various English discussion sites, I think we can safely postpone the death-knell of the novel. Students are finding a community of fellow readers with whom to discuss set texts and wider reading.
There were all those early scare-stories of students downloading ready-made essays and passing them off as their own. I suspect that is no more of a problem than all those coursework assignments that quietly passed through the hands of interventionist parents. The web discussion sites of English books can surely only be a good thing, even when they raise some questions about the comprehension levels of some students: one, on a website I looked at this evening, was asking who was the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird. Perhaps a teeny bit of close reading would be in order there.
For teachers the access to a range of documents and resources is astonishing. The official sites - Department for Education and Employment, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Teacher Training Agency and the exam boards - are a useful way of keeping abreast of developments. Even more helpful is the way you can find information about increasingly obscure topics. Need something on Estuary English? You can find a dozen websites.
We owe a debt of gratitude to a small bunch of obsessive and talented English teachers who are maintaining some superb English portals - pages of high-quality resources and links to other sites. The best of these are listed in the adjoining panel. You can engage in debate, questions and answers, or humdrum gossip.
All of this uses the web in a passive way - as a gigantic library. You might also want also to explore the sites that are truly interactive - those that show grammar in action, which convert any sentence into almost any dialect, which provide resources for your own movie-making.
Suddenly we are all going to become media practitioners. Media studies in English used to mean watching Kes on a wet Thursday afternoon. Now we can film, edit, add music and titles, sequence the images, add voice-overs - and then burn the finished film n to a DVD. As we seek ways of making English active and attractive to our disaffected students and high-fliers alike, here is a way that understanding of media techniques can be developed and refined. All of which is somehow uplifting, a reminder of the power of language and literature to reinvent itself, and to engage a new generation of students with good old-fashioned books.
Geoff Barton teaches English in Suffolk and is author of 'Developing ICT Skills in English' (Heinemann)Web: www.geoffbarton.co.uk
GCSE learning resources
Some great handouts for English Language and Literature:
Large American reference site:
GCSE Answers - resources for every part of the GCSE exam:
On-line help with set-texts:
Common errors in English:
LANGUAGE amp; LINGUISTICS
Yahoo listing of linguistics links:
Very user-friendly guide to the English Language:
American versus English standard English
Dialectizer - fun site on English dialects
Advice on spelling:
Step-by-step spelling units:
On-line grammar tutor:
Site that produces randomly-generated sentences:
Test your grammar knowledge:
MEDIA STUDIES SITES
British Film Institute news and resources:
Movie scripts online:
Movie trailers amp; resources for home movies:
Good starting-points for all cinema work:
Online film reviews: